“The SCİJ Turkey team celebrates Bulgaria’s national day, when Bulgaria gained independence from …….?” asks the Facebook post showing video footage of Turkish journalists dancing with Bulgarian skiers in their national outfits.
SCİJ is short for the Ski Club of International Journalists. It has been active since 1955, bringing together journalists from 37 countries each year for a week-long event. Love for skiing is the common denominator of media members who spend a week in a winter resort where they meet, exchange views, and build new friendships and networks while they ski together.
The 65th SCİJ meeting took place this year in Bulgaria’s Pamporovo ski resort. The most recent meetings took place in Canada and Western European countries like Spain and Italy, so this was the first time that we as Turkish journalists were able to go to a meeting by car. We made it to the hotel with snow tires without having to put on chains.
In recent years Greece has become a popular holiday destination for Turks, and Bulgaria seems to have become the Greece’s winter version. Like Greece, Bulgaria enjoys the advantage of proximity, so there is little wonder why Bulgaria has become a top ski destination for Turks, especially families with budget considerations.
From Istanbul it takes seven hours by car to reach Pamporovo and the travel costs less than a single plane ticket for one person. The passage from the border and the customs is smooth and the roads are open, even in the harsh winter conditions. On the day we drove to Pamporovo a red alert was issued because of a snowstorm.
The price-quality ratio is another important factor that attracts Turkish tourists. “We prefer Bulgaria because of the affordable prices and the long slopes,” said Aylin Turan, who was in Pamporovo with her husband and daughter. The family paid 250 euros for ski passes, equipment rental, and four hours of ski lessons every day for four days.
Pamporovo and Bansko are particularly flooded by Turkish tourists during the winter break in Turkish schools. “I have lots of students from Turkey,” said ski instructor Ani Pesheva.
“This is the first time we have come to Pamporovo. Last year we were in Bansko, where there are also lots of Turks. It is a little bit more touristic and the slopes are easier,” said tourist Yasemin Kırcan.
“Pamporovo’s nature is better than Bansko, which is also more crowded,” added her husband İhsan Kırca.
Pamporovo enjoys 120 sunny days in winter. The zone offers ski slopes with an overall length of 37 kilometers, suitable for all ages and abilities but best for beginners and intermediates.
Up to 400,000 Turkish tourists are believed to visit Bulgaria every year, according to Turkish embassy officials in Sofia. Of them, 100,000 are thought to choose the country for winter tourism.
Celebrating Bulgaria’s national day on the ski slopes
Bulgaria’s national day is celebrated on March 3, marking the date of the signing of the peace treaty that ended the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 and proclaimed Bulgaria as an independent state.
Bulgarian skiers celebrate their national day by skiing in their national outfit and dancing in the slopes. This year journalists taking part in the SCİJ meeting were asked to wear their national outfits and also join Bulgarian skiers on the slopes. Ironically, it was only us Turkish journalists who accepted this call, putting on national outfits and joining Bulgarian skiers in celebrating their independence from the Ottomans!